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The WORD. The TRUTH.

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Homily for Friday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time, Apostles, 29 October 2021, Luke 14:1-6

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is addressing an issue about SABBATH. The background is the Third of the Ten Commandments. The Pharisees have oversimplified the commandment into a mere religious obligation to abstain from work on the day that they should be worshipping. Ater all, the Hebrew word SHABAT means REST.

Their simplistic interpretation is: The day of worship is a strictly NO WORK DAY because it is the SHABAT (DAY OF REST). Doing any form of work is an offense against the Jewish Law and therefore a serious sin.

Luke tells us “the people were observing Jesus carefully as he was having dinner at the home of one of the leading Pharisees.” It means he probably already had the reputation of violating the commandments because he interpreted them differently. He found the perfect opportunity to offer his alternative reading of that part in Sciptures about the third commandment.

The Gospel writer says Jesus happened to be seated in front of a man who was suffering from DROPSY. What kind of illness is that? In English, he medical term is EDEMA; in Tagalog, MINAMANAS. Jesus begins by asking, “Is performing a cure on the Sabbath permitted by the law or not?” No answer. And so he performs the healing session anyway, something they regarded as work.

Afterwards, he asks them a silly question, “Who among you will not save your son or ox if he falls into a water cistern? Will you not immediately pull him out even on a Sabbath day?” I said it’s a silly question and I think he intended it to sound silly precisely to make his audience laugh.

Let us make it sound even more ridiculous. Will you say to your son who has fallen into a swimming pool and is about to drown because he does not know how to swim, “Sorry, anak, it is a NO WORK DAY today. Swimming is a form of activity or work, so I cannot pull you out of there now. It is a violation.” I imagine Jesus saying this tongue-in-cheek, winking, and humoring his listeners. “LoL” as they say in digital text abbreviations. I imagine everyone else laughing, except the Pharisees.

Jesus is caricaturing the legalistic attitude of the Pharisees precisely to make it sound ridiculous, and he succeeds. He knows his Scriptures well. He is aware that the third commandment does not say, “Thou shalt not work on your day of rest because it is your day of worship.” Rather, it says, “Thou shalt KEEP HOLY your day of rest!” In other words, “Thou shalt CONSECRATE your Sabbath.”

How do you do that? The book of Deuteronomy’s version of the Ten Commandments says it. In chapter 5, verses 14-15 , we read, “…the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God. You shall not do any work, either you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or donkey or any work animal, or the resident alien within your gates, SO THEY MAY REST AS YOU DO.” Then the WRITER reminds how, once upon a time, they were slaves in Egypt and were abused by their masters, who gave them no rest at all. This commandment would change that.

In simpler language, what it is saying is, “Be kind to those who have to work all the time while you enjoy the luxury of being able to rest several days without being afraid to starve. You keep your Sabbath holy not just by resting yourselves but by giving rest to people who have no day-off because they are being oppressed and exploited.

If the husband says to his wife, “It’s Sabbath, don’t wash the clothes or do the dishes,” he should be able to follow it up with, “Don’t worry, I will do it myself so you can take a rest.” Or think of a wife who says to her husband, “You have worked all week, you are very tired. Just sit and relax. I will give you a foot massage so you can get a good night’s sleep.” I will give you rest.

Jesus is reorienting people’s attitudes. What he is saying is, You don’t just tell people to rest. That is a tall order. Rather, give them rest. Or in plain English, give them a little break. A paid day off. How do you expect daily wage earners who live a hand-to-mouth existence to take a rest on a Sunday. What will he feed his children? How do you give rest to a person with a disability, a person with a long lingering illness? During those ancient times, how could a slave take a rest? He would be beaten up.

And yet, there are people who splurge on luxurious vacations and even flaunt it in their social media accounts. Imagine saying to an OFW who needs to accept three full-time jobs in various shifts in order to support his family in the Philippines? The commandment says, “Do not make your children or your servants or your animals work on Sabbath SO THAT THEY CAN REST WITH YOU.”

The most sanctifying thing about the Sabbath is not really taking a rest but GIVING REST to people who are weary. That is why in Matthew 11, we hear Jesus saying “Come to me all you who are weary and overburdened, and I WILL GIVE YOU REST.” It is what his mission is about.

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Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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